The Meaning of
"The High Priestess" Tarot Card
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What is the inverted meaning of
"The High Priestess"?
The Meaning of
"The High Priestess"
The Symbolism of The High Priestess
Some tarot cards have simplistic, easy to interpret symbols, but the High Priestess isn't one of them. Analyzing one of tarot's most iconic images is like opening a treasure chest of arcane references and esoteric symbolism, revealing several centuries of mysticism and lore.
The marriage of Judeo-Christian and pagan elements in this card is purposeful: Tucked into her robe is a copy of the Torah, which consists of the first-five books of the Bible. On her chest is an equilateral Greek cross, which is a reference both to Christ and to harmony in the universe through a perfect balance of spirit and nature.
Analyzing one of tarot's most iconic images is like opening a treasure chest of arcane references and esoteric symbolism, revealing several centuries of mysticism and lore.
On her head is the crown of Isis, the Egyptian mother goddess, and at her feet is a crescent moon, a traditional pagan symbol of the subconscious and female spirituality.
On either side of the Priestess, we see the twin pillars of the sacred Temple of Solomon from Biblical history: Jachin and Boaz. The letters on each pillar are written in the color of the other pillar — demonstrating how each pillar reflects the qualities of the opposite one. The pillars themselves are in turn a reflection of the Roman numeral 'II' which marks the top of the card.
Behind the High Priestess, we see a hanging tapestry which is decorated in images of pomegranates. Pomegranates carry two distinct symbolic references:
- In the Bible, pomegranates appear repeatedly as symbols of female fertility and beauty;
- In Greek mythology, pomegranates are a reference to the story of Persephone and are strongly linked to the underworld.
The above double-meaning is intentional and connects the High Priestess to beauty and feminine power, but also illustrates her connection to the shadow world. The High Priestess is a exceedingly complex woman posessed of deep knowledge and mystery.
NOTE: Observant readers may notice that the High Priestess looks oddly similar to the Two of Swords card. Both The High Priestess and her Minor Arcana relative share the same Roman numeral 'II' at the top of their cards. Both women are wearing remarkably similar clothes — although the Priestess seems to wear more adornments. Both women appear to be seated in a similar place. (Look closely on the sides of the hanging pomegranate tapestry here and you will see that the High Priestess also sits with her back to the sea, as does the acolyte in the Two of Swords.) The crescent moon is represented in both places as well, and the crossed arms of the woman in the Minor Arcana card have been replaced by an actual cross here. Many tarot readers believe these woman are one in the same — represented at early and later stages of her life path.
How to Interpret The High Priestess
With all of its complex imagery,The High Priestess may seem like a difficult card to interpret, but its message is easy to understand: Listen to your inner voice.
The appearance of the High Priestess card in a tarot reading points to the importance of intuition.
The appearance of the High Priestess card in a tarot reading points to the importance of intuition. Logic, math and reason may be vitally important things, but when the High Priestess appears, take it as a gentle nudge to follow your heart instead.
Divine knowledge is often something that can't be defined in rational or logical terms. There are times when we just know what the right path is, and that decision needs no explanation.
When the High Priestess enters into a tarot reading, the cards are often telling us to make room for intuition. Our inner-guide can speak loudly and clearly — but we have to give it the freedom be heard.
Listen closely to it, and it will grow louder and clearer. Suppress it, and we lose touch with our true selves.
If the card is referencing a past event, the High Priestess may point to a time when intuition and divine inspiration were important to the outcome. If the card is referencing a future event, it may serve as a gentle reminder for someone to listen to their heart when the right moment comes.
Generally speaking the High Priestess card is neither positive or negative — but it does offer powerful advice. If you're typically someone that thinks with logic and rationality, the card may indicate that a current path is the wrong one — and that intuition should be followed instead.
The High Priestess Inverted
The reversed High Priestess is often a sign that something is blocking an inner voice.
The upright High Priestess is a call to listen to one's heart, and to follow one's intuition. But if the High Priestess comes up inverted in a reading, it's a gentle warning that intuition is being ignored.
... if the High Priestess comes up inverted in a reading, it's a gentle warning that intuition is being ignored.
We all ignore our own intuition from time to time. Sometimes we ignore an inner voice because of pressure from friends, family or work. Other times we allow social customs and stereotypes to rule our decisions. In many other cases, we think with our eyes (or our bank statements), and not with our hearts.
When the inverted High Priestess enters into a tarot reading, take it as a spiritual "tap on the shoulder"; The tarot cards are reminding us to listen up and pay attention to divine guidance which we may be ignoring.
The reversed High Priestess may also be a subtle warning to avoid the influence of a specific person. Perhaps someone is offering guidance which is self-serving or part of someone else's agenda. Putting the advice of others' on mute and listening instead to the light within is sometimes the best path forward.
Lastly, if someone has already spent a lot of time meditating and listening to one's inner voice, then in these specific cases the inverted High Priestess card may be an indication that the time for meditation is ending, and a time of action may be approaching.
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